This paper recognises participation as a political issue and discusses how the concept can be abused by the powerful, in order to serve their interests. Who is involved, how, and on whose terms, are questions that need to be asked, as participation may take place for a whole range of unfree reasons. While participation has the potential to challenge patterns of dominance, it may also be the means through which existing power relations are entrenched and reproduced. The author argues the importance of seeing participation as a dynamic process, and to understand that its own form and function can become a focus for struggle. If participation truly gives voice to the voiceless, some conflict should be expected, as the process will challenge power relations.